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PCB Design keynoter calls for design, manufacturing collaboration

Posted: 14 Mar 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:flextronics? nicholas brathwaite? printed circuit board design west conference? pcb? outsourcing?

"Collaboration between design and manufacturing, whether it's between or within OEM and EMS companies, must be used to shorten product development times and reduce costs," said Flextronics CTO Nicholas Brathwaite during the opening of the Printed Circuit Board Design West conference in San Jose, California.

Brathwaite said that the top six companies in the EMS business enjoyed 4 percent growth in 2002, even though many of their customers' revenues have been halved since 1999. This has led EMS companies to play a greater role in designing systems as well as manufacturing systems for customers.

To capitalize on this new trend, Brathwaite said EMS companies like Flextronics need to streamline communications between their design and manufacturing groups as well as with their customers.

"Outsourcing has been a significant change and will continue to grow, but there are significant challenges in the expanse from just contract manufacturing to include more product development," said Brathwaite. "Outsourcing, in general, to date, has not worked as it should. The benefits have not yet been realized."

Brathwaite said collaboration has become extremely complicated as EMS companies attempt to collaborate on projects with customers to reduce costs. These efforts are "changing from collaborating between engineers within one company to collaborating across company lines, geographies and cultures," said Brathwaite. "It is becoming very difficult."

Brathwaite said companies could cut several project direction and cost simply by streamlining the link between product procurement and design.

Many companies address communications issues by shifting a few manufacturing people to design groups. "I was a product development engineer, and I can tell you, you can put anyone on the team you want but unless that person is standing over my workstation when I'm designing that product, it is not that valuable," said Brathwaite.

EMS companies often use their ability to produce more cheaply than competitors as a main selling point. Brathwaite said they rarely look at how streamlining design and procurement could also cut costs as well. He said the main problem is inefficient and ineffective transfer of information between groups.

Designers often complete a design only to find out that a part is too expensive or is not available in volume, he said. They must then redesign the product once more.

While product data is readily available, Brathwaite said getting that material to the designer's desktop has been a challenge. "From design to manufacturing you have a number of tools and systems that do not communicate well," he said. "In design you have a number of tools and systems. In product procurement there are a number of tools and system and in manufacturing and logistics there are a number of tools and systems. But each has a virtual firewall that does not allow the system to communicate easily."

- Mike Santarini

EE Times

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